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    Spanish company Ferry Group is to invest €42/US$55.2 million in a project for the production of biomass fuel pellets in Bulgaria. The 3-year project consists of establishing plantations of paulownia trees near the city of Tran. Paulownia is a fast-growing tree used for the commercial production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Hungary's BHD Hõerõmû Zrt. is to build a 35 billion Forint (€138/US$182 million) commercial biomass-fired power plant with a maximum output of 49.9 MW in Szerencs (northeast Hungary). Portfolio.hu - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Tonight at 9pm, BBC Two will be showing a program on geo-engineering techniques to 'save' the planet from global warming. Five of the world's top scientists propose five radical scientific inventions which could stop climate change dead in its tracks. The ideas include: a giant sunshade in space to filter out the sun's rays and help cool us down; forests of artificial trees that would breath in carbon dioxide and stop the green house effect and a fleet futuristic yachts that will shoot salt water into the clouds thickening them and cooling the planet. BBC News - Feb. 19, 2007.

    Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Indonesia with Wilmar International Ltd. this year and a wholly owned biodiesel plant in Brazil before July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The Brazil plant is expected to be the nation's largest, the paper said. Worldwide, the company projects a fourfold rise in biodiesel production over the next five years. ADM was not immediately available to comment. Reuters - Feb. 16, 2007.

    Finnish engineering firm Pöyry Oyj has been awarded contracts by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. to provide services for the first bioethanol plant in the Philippines. The aggregate contract value is EUR 10 million. The plant is to be build in the Province of San Carlos on the north-eastern tip of Negros Island. The plant is expected to deliver 120,000 liters/day of bioethanol and 4 MW of excess power to the grid. Kauppalehti Online - Feb. 15, 2007.

    In order to reduce fuel costs, a Mukono-based flower farm which exports to Europe, is building its own biodiesel plant, based on using Jatropha curcas seeds. It estimates the fuel will cut production costs by up to 20%. New Vision (Kampala, Uganda) - Feb. 12, 2007.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to use 10% biodiesel in its fleet of public buses. The world's largest city is served by the Toei Bus System, which is used by some 570,000 people daily. Digital World Tokyo - Feb. 12, 2007.

    Fearing lack of electricity supply in South Africa and a price tag on CO2, WSP Group SA is investing in a biomass power plant that will replace coal in the Letaba Citrus juicing plant which is located in Tzaneen. Mining Weekly - Feb. 8, 2007.

    In what it calls an important addition to its global R&D capabilities, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is to build a new bioenergy research center in Hamburg, Germany. World Grain - Feb. 5, 2007.

    EthaBlog's Henrique Oliveira interviews leading Brazilian biofuels consultant Marcelo Coelho who offers insights into the (foreign) investment dynamics in the sector, the history of Brazilian ethanol and the relationship between oil price trends and biofuels. EthaBlog - Feb. 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has announced its renewable energy target: 12% of all energy should come from renewables by 2020. The plan is expected to revitalise Taiwan's agricultural sector and to boost its nascent biomass industry. China Post - Feb. 2, 2007.

    Production at Cantarell, the world's second biggest oil field, declined by 500,000 barrels or 25% last year. This virtual collapse is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos. Wall Street Journal - Jan. 30, 2007.

    Dubai-based and AIM listed Teejori Ltd. has entered into an agreement to invest €6 million to acquire a 16.7% interest in Bekon, which developed two proprietary technologies enabling dry-fermentation of biomass. Both technologies allow it to design, establish and operate biogas plants in a highly efficient way. Dry-Fermentation offers significant advantages to the existing widely used wet fermentation process of converting biomass to biogas. Ame Info - Jan. 22, 2007.

    Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is to build a biofuel production plant in the tribal belt of Banswara, Rajasthan, India. The petroleum company has acquired 20,000 hectares of low value land in the district, which it plans to commit to growing jatropha and other biofuel crops. The company's chairman said HPCL was also looking for similar wasteland in the state of Chhattisgarh. Zee News - Jan. 15, 2007.

    The Zimbabwean national police begins planting jatropha for a pilot project that must result in a daily production of 1000 liters of biodiesel. The Herald (Harare), Via AllAfrica - Jan. 12, 2007.

    In order to meet its Kyoto obligations and to cut dependence on oil, Japan has started importing biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. And even though the country has limited local bioenergy potential, its Agriculture Ministry will begin a search for natural resources, including farm products and their residues, that can be used to make biofuels in Japan. To this end, studies will be conducted at 900 locations nationwide over a three-year period. The Japan Times - Jan. 12, 2007.

    Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched an arrogant attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their attitudes to global warming, calling the Stern Review 'dubious'. The remarks illustrate the yawning gap between opinions on climate change among Europeans and Americans, but they also strengthen the view that announcements by US car makers and legislators about the development of green vehicles are nothing more than window dressing. Today, the EU announced its comprehensive energy policy for the 21st century, with climate change at the center of it. BBC News - Jan. 10, 2007.

    The new Canadian government is investing $840,000 into BioMatera Inc. a biotech company that develops industrial biopolymers (such as PHA) that have wide-scale applications in the plastics, farmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plant-based biopolymers such as PHA are biodegradable and renewable. Government of Canada - Jan. 9, 2007.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Biodiesel byproduct glycerol can be used to make biofuels

Via GCC. The rapid increase in global biodiesel production is resulting in a worldwide surplus of glycerol (glycerine), which is generated as a by-product of the transesterification of vegetable oils. Once considered a valuable co-product, crude glycerol is rapidly becoming a waste product with an attached disposal cost. Therefor, the search is on to use the product in alternative markets or to develop new markets for it. Earlier we reported about research which suggests glycerine makes for an excellent poultry feed additive, but a growing body of research is focusing on developing new glycerol platform chemistry closer to the actual biofuel production sector, to take advantage of the substance that is increasingly abundant and cheap.

At the 232nd National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, researchers described various approaches to utilizing glycerol (C3H8O3) as a feedstock for different liquid fuel outcomes: a low-temperature catalytic approach to using glycerol as a source for fuel and chemicals (and here); the steam reformation of glycerol to produce hydrogen; and glycerol as a feedstock for microbial hydrogen production.

Low-temperature catalytic processing: Dante Simonetti from the University of Wisconsin described work that puts glycerol through a two-step process involving low-temperature catalytic conversion to a syngas (H2 and CO) and subsequent Fischer-Tropsch or methanol synthesis (see illustration).

The group found that gas mixtures of H2 and CO can be produced at high rates and selectivities from glycerol over platinum-based bi-metallic catalysts at temperatures (e.g., 500 K to 620 K) that are significantly lower compared to conventional gasification of biomass.

The two-step process can also serve as an energy-efficient alternative to processes used to convert starch-based materials to fuel-grade ethanol, because glycerol can be produced in high concentration (e.g., 30 wt%) by fermentation of glucose. Accordingly, this process opens new pathways to more effectively utilize renewable biomass resources to provide liquid fuels and chemical intermediates.

The University of Wisconsin Group, led by Prof. James Dumesic, have also developed a low-temperature aqueous phase reforming process that can use glycerol as a feedstock. Dumesic is one of the co-founders of Virent.

Steam reforming of gylcerol to produce hydrogen: several papers tackled the issue of hydrogen generation via the steam reforming of glycerol, with the focus being the discovery of the optimum catalyst and process.

A team from Spain presented experimental results indicating the catalysts they tested are all able to convert the glycerol completely with values very close to the theoretical results predicted by thermodynamic equilibrium.

The experiments were carried out in a fixed-bed catalytic reactor at 773 K and 873 K with nickel catalysts supported on g-alumina and modified by different contents of MgO, ZrO2, CeO2 or La2O3. The feed composition was increased from 1 to 10% of glycerol in water which is a similar content to that obtained in the first phase glycerol separation from biodiesel:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The team found that the addition of promoters significantly improves hydrogen selectivity and avoids the formation of undesirable by-products if compared with non-promoted catalysts. The best performer was a promoted catalyst with 5 wt.%.

Although the focus of a paper from Mississippi State was the steam reforming of sugar, the researchers found that the process was problematic, due to caramelization resulting from the process temperature. The team is in parallel investigating glycerol in its experimental process, which apparently works fine, although no results were presented.

A separate paper from the Mississippi State team described a thermodynamic analysis of the steam reforming of glycerol to produce hydrogen.

The group analyzed the steam reforming process of glycerol over the following variable ranges: pressure 1 atm, temperature 600-1000 K and water-to-glycerol feed ratio 1:1-9:1. The study revealed that the best conditions for producing hydrogen is at a temperature >900 K and a molar ratio of water to glycerol of 9:1. These conditions minimize methane production and inhibit carbon formation.

Microbial hydrogen production: A team from Brookhaven National Laboratory is investigating the processes under which Thermatoga neapolitana, an anaerobic, thermophilic bacterium, efficiently processes glucose feedstock—in this case, glycerol—to produce hydrogen.

One surprising finding was that T. neapolitana produced hydrogen most efficiently in a moderately low-oxygen—but not oxygen-free—environment. Previously, hydrogen production by bacteria has only been reported under anaerobic conditions.

The ability to operate with some oxygen in the production lines would make this process more economically feasible. The team is further studying the mechanistic aspects of the hydrogen production system, and is beginning to work on scaling up the process to a larger 14-liter reactor.


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